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Chinese chess  


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June 3, 2019 12:47 am  

[caption id="attachment_6049" align="alignleft" width="180"] Kerry Knudsen[/caption]

I see on the news that Jeff Bezos “sees a trillion people living in outer space.” My immediate thought was that if I said such a thing, I would be locked up. It’s amazing how much sanity a few billion dollars can buy.

American Revolutionary War writer Tom Paine in Common Sense famously argued for, “the two grand principles of business KNOWLEDGE and POWER.” In Common Sense, money followed achievement. In our new dawn, money gets you anything, including the moon, and knowledge has to do what it’s told.

It was only 15 years ago that this column was addressing the advancing juggernaut of Chinese competition in the wood sector. At that time, Canada was the U.S.’s largest trading partner, but the lines on the graphs were converging. China was on the rise.

It was about that time that we saw some of the European machinery suppliers move their production to China. It was only a small part — a few models — they said, and only for local consumption in China.

Now, the U.S. and China are facing off like professional wrestlers, each in its gaudy suit and accompanying folderol.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I don’t see the U.S., once having taken this position, backing down, and China really can’t without losing face — a cardinal sin in the East.

Concurrently the American Kitchen Cabinet Alliance has filed a lawsuit with the International Trade Commission, asking it to impose anti-dumping penalties against China for what it claims are unfair trade practices. I think for those of us inside the industry, the facts of that case can hardly be in doubt, but the ITC is a weird sort of environment. We’ll see. If you are interested in the Forbes article, you can read it here.

This raises an interesting point. If the combined efforts of the U.S. government and the ITC are successful in putting pressure on China, it is obvious that China will be looking for other niches to offload some oversupply, and, since Canada is not the U.S. and we are not signatories to the AKCA petition, we could become a target of China dumping here that which they have been restrained from dumping there.

This situation evokes the image of a painting by Salvador Dali, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: international titans locked in a death grip with nowhere to go. In Dali’s image, it was a premonition of the Spanish Civil War, but it seems to work OK here, as well. That’s why they call it “art.”

Speaking of international trade running amok, let’s talk about the carbon tax. By now, we are all enjoying the added burdens imposed by the carbon tax, but it seems few of us actually understand what is happening. It’s like this: we are paying money to the federal government. Statscan says Canadian consumed 40 billion litres of gasoline per year. I hear the carbon tax on gas is a nickel a litre. So just for gas, Justin gets an extra $2 billion per year to spend. That’s just gasoline. And by giving it to Justin, we are to believe he will turn down the thermostat.

Do I need to describe how stupid that is? It’s like every other liberal proposal — take the best intention you can manufacture, and charge people to let you administer it. As my favourite economist, Walter Williams, says, “If I take $20 out of my pocket to help the poor, that’s a virtue. If YOU take $20 out of my pocket to help the poor, give $2 to the poor and keep $18 for administration costs, that’s a vice.”

It’s not as if this is a one-off. Thanks to Justin, we are all now living in the land of make-believe recreational pot. How can pot be recreation? When I was a kid, recreation was a hobby, a sport, a project or an event. I can sort of see a case where people could smoke pot while doing something for recreation — driving fast or shooting rifles come to mind — but that hardly argues for the actual smoking of it being recreational or the foolishness of participating in the described activities less foolish. I don’t care what your stance is on legalizing pot, it is not recreation any more than any other kind of intoxication is recreation. Also, there must be some reason why, in Singapore, pot was legal in the 1800s and carries a death sentence today. I’d be interested to know why. It is no less totalitarian to interdict it than it is to legalize it, so it seems a fair question.

I read that Justin is about to ban “assault rifles” in Canada at a June 3 event. Like pot, I don’t really want to talk about assault rifles, but what’s going on? What we call assault rifles are not assault rifles to begin with, and I understand there has only been one death by assault rifle look-alike in the past 15 years in Canada, and that was a suicide. So ban away. I don’t have one, anyway.

But the question is this: we are told we live in a representative democracy. In a democracy, we elect representatives and then they do what they are told. So in what way are we a representative democracy? Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently declared he will not re-open the debate on abortion. That’s fine, I guess, if you are a citizen, and I’m not raising the issue of abortion. I’m asking, what kind of democracy is it where the government can assess $2 billion a year in taxes with no vote, freely distribute a performance-disrupting drug for fun, confiscate a class of products simply by naming them and deciding what will or will not be debated when the citizenry demands it?

Sounds like China to me. Let’s check back in 15 years and see how much sanity all those billions will buy. Maybe the Americans can bail us out.


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